Paul's Vow
Acts 18:18-23
And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brothers, and sailed there into Syria…

The grammatical structure of the Greek sentence makes it possible to refer the words to Aquila as well as Paul, but there is hardly the shadow of a doubt that the latter is meant.

1. If Aquila had taken the vow he too would have had to go to Jerusalem instead of remaining at Ephesus.

2. The language of James (Acts 21:23, 24) implies a conviction, as resting on past experience, that St. Paul would willingly connect himself with those who had such a vow. It remains to inquire as to —

I. THE NATURE AND CONDITIONS OF THE VOW. There can be no doubt that the "vow" was that of the temporary Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-21). It implied a separation from the world and common life (this was the meaning of the word "Nazarite"), and while under the vow the man who had taken it was to drink no wine or strong drink, and to let no razor pass over his head or face. When the term was completed, he was to shave his head at the door of the tabernacle and burn the hair in the fire of the altar. It will be noted that the Nazarites in Acts 21:24, who are completing their vow, shave their heads. Here a different word ("shorn") is used, which is contrasted with "shaving" in 1 Corinthians 11:6. It was lawful for a man to have his hair cut or cropped during the continuance of the vow and this apparently was what St. Paul now did. But in this case also the hair so cut off was to be taken to the temple, and burnt there and this explains the apostle's eagerness, "by all means" (ver. 21) to keep the coming feast at Jerusalem.


1. The strong feeling of thankfulness for deliverance from danger, following upon fear which, as in nearly all phases of the religious life, has been the chief impulse out of which vows have grown. We have seen the fear, and the promise, and the deliverance, in the record of St. Paul's work at Corinth, and the vow of self-consecration, for a season, to a life of special devotion was the natural result. St. Paul had not learnt to despise or condemn such expressions of devout feeling.

2. His desire to be "all things to all men," and, therefore, as a Jew to Jews (1 Corinthians 9:20). A Nazarite vow would testify to all his brethren by blood that he did not despise the law himself nor teach other Jews to despise it. Such a vow, involving, as it did for a time, a greater asceticism than that of common life, furnishes a link in the succession of thoughts in 1 Corinthians 9:22-25, between the apostle's being made "all things to all men" and his keeping under his body, and bringing it into subjection."

(Dean Plumptre.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

WEB: Paul, having stayed after this many more days, took his leave of the brothers, and sailed from there for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. He shaved his head in Cenchreae, for he had a vow.

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